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Oct. 21, 2005
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Reporters Without Borders Dont Fancy Russia Today
// Russia is ranked thirtieth from the bottom in the freedom of the press rating
Reporters Without Borders published the annual rating of the freedom of the press yesterday where Russia is ranked 138th, out of 167 countries. The organization accounts this poor figure for the pressure on the mass media, the biased coverage of the events in Chechnya and the fact that Russia is still a dangerous place for journalists to live in.
The compilers of the rating note that Russias biggest problems are still the control of the media, curbs on different viewpoints and the biased coverage of the events in Chechnya. These trends are increasingly evident from year to year. Russia is still an uncomfortable place to work and is dangerous for journalists to live in, Pascal Bonnamour, the head of the organizations European department, told Kommersant yesterday.

This is the fourth worldwide freedom of the press rating that Reporters Without Borders has compiled. Russia has never entered even the top 100 in it. In 2002, Russia ranked 121st among 139 countries, in 2003 it was 148th of 160 countries, and 140th of 167 in 2004. The rating reflects the freedom of the press in each country and the states role as a guarantor of this freedom, Ms. Bonnamour says. The rating is compiled on the basis of a 50-point questionnaire on the freedom of the press, the censorship, the safety of journalists and the pressure of the state. Journalists, lawyers and human rights activists answered the questions. Reporters Without Borders does not disclose their names.

Though Russia has in fact climbed in the rating (to the 138th place from the 140th) compared with the last year, Pascal Bonnamour points out to the aggravation of the situation with the freedom of the press in this country. She mentions that the investigation into the murder of Paul Khlebnkov, the editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of the Forbes magazine, was closed and all the blame was put on the Chechen warlord Khozh-Akhmed Nukhaev, who has never been found. Two journalists died in Russia over the last year, Ms. Bonnamour says. These are Pavel Makeev from Rostov-based Puls TV channel and Magomet-Zagit Varisov, director of the Center for Strategic Research and Political Technologies. One more journalist, director general of the Media Samara media holding, Dmitry Suryaninov was severely beaten this May.

The pressure of the state on the Russian mass media is still mounting, Ms. Bonnamour goes on. She calls the setting up of the round-the-clock English-language Russia Today TV channel another step of the state to control information. The denial to extend the accreditation for ABC and an enormous fine that the Court of Arbitration charged from Kommersant Daily to satisfy Alfa Banks suit are measures of the same kind, according to experts of Reporters Without Borders.

The analysts Kommersant has asked are of different opinions on the mark that Russia got in the rating. The relation of Reporters Without Borders to Russia is quite well-grounded, Alexey Simonov, the president of the Publicity Protection Foundation, believes. Yes, there have been fewer assaults on journalists recently but the issue of censorship is still acute. I dont agree either with the place that Russia got, or with the idea of the state influence on the television, Eduard Sagalaev, the president of the National Association of TV and Radio Broadcasters and a member of the Russian Public Chamber, told Kommersant yesterday. Im dissatisfied with many things on the Russian television, but I dont believe that Reporters Without Borders are impartial towards Russia because I see that the situation is getting better slowly but it is. The television is now impartially covering the story of foreign students in Vorenezh, the operation in Nalchik and other things that are quite unpleasant for the image of the country.
Nikita Prokunin, Andrey Kozenko

All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 21, 2005

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